Legitimate charities need your help, especially at this time of year. But determining who is legit can sometimes be like trying to navigate through a minefield.

New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs Acting Director Paul Rodriguez says some supposed charities are in fact scams.

But Rodriguez emphasizes that the vast majority of charities are reputable.

"We certainly encourage people to be giving at this time of year and all throughout the year," he said, days before annual Giving Tuesday on Dec. 3.

How can the well-meaning and generous among us fight getting ripped off? Rodriguez has a few suggestions at njconsumeraffairs.gov.

He said people should research how much charities spend on their charitable purposes as opposed to overhead costs. Even legitimate charities might spend more on administrative costs than donors would prefer.

"Most legitimate charities are required to register with the state. And so if you have a question about whether the charity that you're dealing with is a reputable charity, you should go on our web site and make sure that they are registered with us," he said. "That will also give you some more information about the charity to tell you where they are and how much of the money goes to fundraising expenses."

Charities that are not registered could still be legit. Some organizations, he said, are exempt or are too small to need to register.

"You can always call us to verify and make sure. Use common sense and use a gut check," Rodriguez said.

Another reputable guide is the Better Business Bureau's give.org/wise-giving-guide.

Joe Cutter is the senior news anchor at New Jersey 101.5